I have been reflecting on my return to work following my second period of maternity leave.
With my first child, my mind was occupied constantly with the distractions of being a first time mother – Is my child’s development normal? How many groups can I go to for some adult conversation? Am I obsessing over sleep routines (or lack of)?
The second time was so much different. I knew the basics and found myself with so much headspace. With fewer things going on in my life, my mind was much less cluttered. I had time to think about a good present to buy for that birthday party, time to plan holidays, days out, family time. Nothing felt rushed or last minute and it was wonderful. It also gave me lots of time and space to consider my career.
We are not planning on having any more children, so when I went back to work, it was forever, or at least it felt like that. Once I am back on the treadmill, it might be hard to get off and so making some conscious decisions beforehand felt like a good thing to do.
My time off gave me the space to rebalance and assess what was really important to me. Space to consider how the needs of my family and our two 2 pre-school children might change as they grow and develop. No, they won’t need me to get them dressed when they start school, but they may need me more emotionally and I want to be there for them after school when they have had a bad day or are delighted to tell me how exciting it was.
Having now returned to work, my decision to continue working five days a week feels well thought-out. I will work two days a week from home, but I will be flexible if I need to be in the office for a key meeting. The important part of this arrangement is that my firm trusts me to work in the way that suits me best, but expects me to make decisions in a professional manner - it's a two way street.
I’m not going to achieve everything I want to at home whilst holding down a demanding career, but my workplace allows for flexible working and that is what is keeping me sane during this immense juggling act. My time off has allowed me to make some decisions that are intentional rather than impulsive. It has refuelled and recharged me. I am clearer as to what I want to achieve and I’m bolder in setting the boundaries within which I can achieve that. At work, I am more focussed and I have a greater sense of what motivates me.
I now take regular walks during the working week and find that I make good decisions when I not distracted. If I can go some way towards how calm and balanced I felt during my year off, it will be worth it. My family life already feels more relaxed and I feel as though I have more perspective and more ability to relax and enjoy time with my husband and children.
When we talk about work / life balance, we often hear examples of people that go for a run after work or fit in a gym class. That’s all great, but in my opinion it’s not enough. Giving yourself time to think, to reflect and to make well thought-out decisions is also key to a healthy, balanced existence and in turn gives me more energy to be the parent I want to be!